THE council has come under fire after increasing the cost of parking permits near Basingstoke town centre by more than 50 per cent at a time when many people are struggling financially.

Tom Quante, who lives in Penrith Road, was shocked to discover that the cost of two parking permits for himself and a visitor had gone up from £31 a year for both, to £25 per permit, totaling £50 a year – an increase of £19.

The 31-year-old has lived in the central area of Basingstoke for the past five years, and said he was satisfied with the previous cost, but is struggling to understand how the significant increase can be justified and without warning to those affected.

“Since moving to Central Basingstoke I have always struggled to park in our designated zone and was hopeful that the rises in parking fees would result in improvements to our overall parking experience, sadly this is not the case,” he told the Gazette, adding: “What frustrates me most about this is that at no point did the council notify residents of this quite considerable rise to their parking permits.

“They chose the middle of a pandemic, when unemployment is rising, and more residents are suffering to implement a rise residents can do nothing about. We are stuck and required, as vehicle owners to pay this previously unannounced premium. It is unnecessary timing and disgraceful behaviour.”

Tom contacted Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC) about the increase, but said he was told the prices are set by Hampshire County Council (HCC), which informed him that the fees were part of a larger project to bring parking permit restrictions in line across the county.

Tom said: “During the pandemic the council did little to nothing to make up for reduced services across the board, most notably waste collection, and yet residents are expected to continue to pay more for less into the central pot.”

Councillor Hayley Eachus, the borough council’s cabinet member for environment and enforcement, said BDBC is responsible for the administration of a number of on-street parking schemes in the borough, on behalf of the county council.

She added: “These schemes should operate on a full cost recovery basis. However, they have run at a loss for many years, and are therefore heavily subsidised by both Hampshire County Council and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

“To help with the costs of administration, enforcement and maintenance of lines and signage, an increase in charges formed part of the 2020/21 public budget consultation and was approved by council in February 2020.

“This is a fair way of balancing the costs of delivering the scheme and ensuring those who benefit from the scheme pay to use it. Despite this, the cost of the permit is still very good value and equates to just 50p per week for those who use it.

“We carefully consider any increase to ensure that costs are affordable and competitive against other councils and to balance this against the costs of running the service.”

Councillor Rob Humby, deputy leader and executive member for environment and transport at HCC, said it was agreed in October 2018 to adopt a new “consistent approach” to cover the costs of on-street parking, and not “draw resources away from general highways maintenance across the county”.